Bay County Commission Stays on High Ground

By: Sabrina Zimring
By: Sabrina Zimring

Go to the Walton County Web site and what do you see? An ad letting the world know that the beaches of south Walton are now protected by lifeguards, safe and swimmer friendly.

The Walton Tourist Development Council is kicking off a television ad campaign, promoting the new lifeguard program.

All of this comes as a 23-year-old Uzbekistan man died Tuesday on Panama City Beach. His roommate from Troy University says they got caught up in a rip current. Red flags were flying, warning swimmers to stay out of the water, but there are not lifeguards to enforce the flag system.

"This is a basic responsibility of government to provide for safety and citizens alike and until they embrace that concept, which has been embraced by counties all around the county, but for some reason not here in Bay County, and until that happens you're going to continue to see theses tragedies occur."

Panama City beach officials are exploring a new lifeguard program for some areas within the city limits. That would include the city pier and soon to open aquatic center at Frank Brown Park.

But the majority of Bay County's coastline falls under the county's jurisdiction.

"We have a beach, we make a lot of money off that beach, we need to put some money back in it."

Girvin seems to be in the minority. Commissioners Mike Nelson and George Gainer believe private businesses, motels and condos should furnish their own guards.

Brewster says that won't cut it.

"If you look at the situation with Panama City Beach and Bay County, they're now looking more and more irresponsible relative to their neighbors. If you look to the west you're seeing local government providing lifeguards, and for some reason Panama City Beach and Bay County stall while others recognize their responsibility."

"Maybe we should have lifeguards at every access point, having lifeguards would be expensive, let’s face it. Lifeguards are gonna be expensive, but how expensive is your life?"


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